Clooney made me cry

The first thing I ever looked up on the internet was a photo of Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know what to do next, so I printed the picture out.

So baffled was I by the thrill of it all, that I didn’t know how to react.

Watching the film Gravity is a similar experience. However, it also requires the suspension of a few things.

1. Your belief that, due to escalating prices and reduced service, the era of attending cinemas is over.

2. Any opinion that Sandra Bullock should appear only in rom-coms.

3. SPOILER: You could not possibly enjoy watching George Clooney die, even after his Nespresso ads.

Clooney loves a pre-packaged coffee of no particular origin or ethics

Flat white acting

When I left the cinema, I had the usual pow-wow with my brother and we agreed that the film was excellent but also overrated. (Much of the world seems in awe of it – the film has an incredibly 97% average rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)

I did not think the film had the legs to be a classic, let alone pull an Oscar or two, as some are predicting. It was pretty much Speed in Space – both films featured Sandra careening into things while struggling to maintain control of a vehicle she is ill-equipped to pilot.

Gravity is just Speed In Space

Gravity is just Speed In Space

But here’s the weird thing; when I went to explain a few pivotal plot points to my wife, I was overcome with tears. Twice I found a salty residue streaming from my eyes at the retelling of the corny yet believable story.

The movie had moved me much more than I had realised. Something about the moment of being faced with your mortality, with George in a dream, with yet another incredibly challenging life-threatening scenario.

 “I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work. ”

 – Jack to Annie.  Speed (1994)

Some people have been moved in other directions. One Christian professor has said the entire movie points to a creator, with undercurrents of sacrifice and redemption, while the writer/director Alfonso Cuaron is more interested in his film’s Darwinian leanings.

jesus is an astronaut

Heavens above the stratosphere

WIRED magazine, rather than rejoicing that a film based around scientific breakthroughs is breaking box office records, has instead gone to town on its inaccuracies.

It’s a film, people. It is not Kubrick. It is not the messiah. But it may make you cry.

It’s not me, it’s U2

Funny short legs don't you think?

The poster on my wall from the age of 12 through 16

U2, the band I grew up with, collecting their limited edition vinyl and attending every concert, are done. It’s over. They haven’t quit yet but I am confident they should, right after their next album.

In the same way it’s important to leave a party when it’s still going well – it’s time for my favourite band to die now. And I hope they do while they are still linked with the joy of their most profound musical moments.

I know the Rolling Stones announced this month that they’ll be quitting the stage, but that’s not reason enough for U2 to step down.

Oddly, my earliest memory of U2 is of knowing people wanted Bono to go away.

And those KILL BONO T-shirts I spotted 25 years ago are still on sale (Thankyou Internet)

To the point. Unlike Bono.

I’ve never hated the man. I have, at times, loved him. Now, a few things convince me their next album should be their last.

Bono has said that the band will quit when they release two crap albums in a row. Based on that theory, and following their last album No Line On The Horizon, their next album will be their final production.

The end began when U2 became stuck in a rut following the album Pop. Pop was dazzling, bringing together the inventiveness of Zooropa and the courage of Achtung! Baby, and drawing on every musical trick they had in the bag. Problem was, their creative energy was exhausted just as their core of fans began to lose faith.

As a songwriter, Bono has mined the poetry and narratives of the Bible better than any other pop star. His decision to stop this brought him to a personal crisis. Could he really hide the part of himself that paraded his Christianity throughout their early albums? (Could anyone expect to hide a messianic complex?)

We broke the bread, we drank the wine, everybody having a good time… Except you. You were still talking about the end of the world.

Until the End of the World

The band claimed that the mega-hit LP Achtung! Baby was the sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree, yet lyrically, the album was as full of biblical metaphors, just as any previous album. It did, of course, add industrial rhythms and spunk that had been missing and it stands out to most people as their best.

For me, the turning point came in the disappointing album All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which lacked sincerity, depth, and left us with the most radio-friendly/nauseating song of its time, Beautiful Day.

Elevation was the height of the nonsense…

A mole, living in a hole
Digging up my soul now
Going down, excavation

Elevation

The magazine Uncut said it best in their review, pointing out that U2 appear unable to write a song without an explosive chorus — think about it, it’s in nearly all their songs … and once the build up and climax is identified, it’s painful inevitability proves it a predictable, manipulative tool.

To be fair, songs like One and With or Without You are the exception.

There were reports around 1995, that the band had thrown out an entire album of songs only to start again from scratch – something they have a history of doing. They repeated it before the last album they released, No Line On The Horizon, when they not only sacked their producer but trashed an entire series of songs said to be taking them in a new direction. Instead, what we got was an album that avoided explosive choruses yet delivered confused tunes, some of which, I believe, lack a chorus altogether.

Mediocre reviews were only the half of it. When the band launched their latest hugely successful ‘360 Tour’, Bono’s voice was dead on arrival. I’ve just watched their DVD concert recorded at the famous Rose Bowl stadium. The stadium is packed and the stage looks phenomenal, but if this was the performance they thought deserved to be captured forever on film, I’ve got a feeling it is also the last one they’ll capture on film.

Dutifully, I went to the Sydney concert for the 360 Tour, and like the Vertigo Tour before it (pictured) the stage was an engineering marvel.

Childhood dream – tick.

Like many U2 fans still gripping on from the 80s and 90s, I continue to buy every album and attend every tour — a loyalty which puts enough money in their bulging pockets to make anything the band do look like a success.

But this loyalty conveniently disguises the fact their concerts are increasingly reliant on their greatest hits. At the last two concerts, I’ve been embarrassed to find, even a few rows from the stage, that no one is singing any of the new songs.

When the night takes a deep breath,
And the daylight has no air,
If I crawl, if I come crawling home
Will you be there?

In a Little While

I’ve read a few books on the band, and one early biography had great insights into U2’s belief in the power of a song. They don’t ever underestimate the ability of one pop song or one performance to transport people into a different mindset and a better life (if only for a few minutes). What’s even more powerful, Bono said, is that a rock song can change people’s minds and have them believe they can change the world.

He’s right, this time. I do think U2 have changed the world outlook of many people.

But that was years ago. I have been more loyal than most but now, even I must acknowledge that the exhilarating moments U2 brought me, the times I felt no other group could reflect my thoughts so well, were back in the 1990s – 15 years ago.

What’s left for U2, except to taint their legacy and possibly undo all the joy with crap pop songs in search of a chorus?

I don’t want to KILL BONO, but I do hope U2 die.

A school motto for mediocrity

School mottos can say a lot about a school. Or particularly little.

Take one school’s disappointing effort below…
20110416-010819.jpg

GO FORWARD.

Well, thanks for clearing that up. Your well-respected school will send children into the world – or Ashfield Boys High, as the case may be – with one clear direction and, the motto suggests, little else.

As a chance to define the values of a school, a motto gives a school’s stakeholders a platform to express their goals, to market their vision to the community and to stand up for what they believe in.

Moreover, there is a heightened need these days for schools to spell out their intentions and worldview thanks to the ongoing values debate occurring in New South Wales.

The debate draws on the division between ‘secular’ or state schools and ‘religious’ or church schools.

What are your values? Where do they come from, what are they worth to you and how do you live them out?

In this debate, words get bandied about with little explanation like INCLUSION, EQUALITY, FAIRNESS…

(Someone I know who teaches scripture at a Sydney public school was glad to learn that despite the inclusion of ethics classes in that primary school, the size of the scripture classes had in fact grown substantially in 2011. So despite all parents now having a clear choice – albeit a confusing one as ethics is by no means an alternative to spiritual belief in your life or mine – more had chosen to send their children to Scripture than the previous year.)

Could this all be advertising’s fault? Perhaps we are not far from seeing a single, vague word being used to express an entire institution’s reason for existence. I grew up attending Winmalee High whose pitiful motto was

STRIVE TO ACHIEVE

Strive to Achieve – I used to enjoy removing some letters from people’s jumpers so it would read Strive to chive.

Maybe in future it could be reduced, officially, to simply STRIVE.

To me, meaningless mottos evoke the superficial side of corporate life where meaningless words have been sprayed across corporate centres since the mid-nineties. I have worked in business parks where billboards, reception desks and cubicle dividers scream terms like ——- INSPIRE —— DRIVE ——- SYNERGY ——– terms that are all useless on their own and read like you found the notes someone jotted down at a motivational seminar.

I am certain Summer Hill Public School would have more to say if I was a parent speaking to the principal, but I am not, I am a borderline Gen-Y passer-by weighing up my local schools based on my first impressions.

I guess I should be happy it didn’t say MOVING FORWARD.

Clowns for Jesus

Clowns indeed.

Apparently the Trinity is a three-ring circus

I have a major issue with how badly Christians do PR, or public relations.

As part of this, I have always been bemused at Christians claiming celebs as their own; Ian Thorpe, Steve Irwin, Peter Garrett, Evanescence, Justin Bieber

Christians, of all people, should not need another role model.  And I think, if those people ever did come out as believers, or become outspoken Christians, it may not end the way Christians want.  Look at what hypocrisy Bono represents to most of the world. And remember the band Creed? It’s the reason they invented the word ‘god-awful’.

But there is something much funnier about people coming out who even Christians don’t really want waving the Jesus flag.

Especially if you once considered them to be doing Satan’s work.

Today I found this story, in the UK’s Guardian, which appears horrifying, amusing and sincere all at once.

Insane Clown Posse: And God created controversy

America’s nastiest rappers in shocking revelation – they’ve been evangelical Christians all along.

Read the full, confounding, profane interview

I haven’t ever followed ICP – certainly not enough to be abbreviating their name – but as someone who was a music journo for a few years for teen magazines (Juice, Recovery, Blunt) and later Channel [V], I interviewed metal bands like Slipknot, Coal Chamber, Queens of the Stone Age and others, giving me good evidence that the men making spine-shattering noise on stage are usually reasonable and thoughtful guys backstage and if you met them in the street, they’d be dedicated dads who love their mum. It made me sick. It was the reason I got out of the music industry. No band had anything to say, they couldn’t back up their lyrics and they were hopeless reflections of the powerful presence they became on stage.

Is this good because it proves they are human? No. Is Insane Clown Posse exposing their heart and faith a good thing for music? No. Is it good for the truth to get out, sure, but if Christianity calls for love above all things, what were these band members thinking? Not a lot, I reckon.

Finding out that all rock stars were normal people did my head in. I had bought into it heavily as a teen and all it did was multiply my cynicism about the music business. It proved to me  the often sensational onstage antics are just that, theatre.

Slipknot (pictured with non-fan) drew heavily on ICP’s look when they appeared on the volcanic rap-metal-horrorcore scene. They upped the ante, flinging themselves around the stage, attacking instruments, often literally, all while wearing masks that, no joke, they sewed themselves.

When I met the band, I had come into a Kings Cross hotel expecting to meet crazed clowns who talked like diesel engines but here I was getting lectured to on performance art by a 40ish man who would otherwise be a school bus driver.  He went by the name “6” but he was actually Shawn Crahan is one of the founding members of Slipknot.

The group – who recently lost one of their masked members to drugs – readily admitted to me that the personas they took on was all bluster. It was all an act to sell tickets. That was news to me. I didn’t think they were murderers but I at least wanted them to be expressing some righteous anger at the world, the rock’n’roll ethos that says things aren’t right but we can fix it.

It was news but I couldn’t print it. Nor could I print the fact that they nearly all had kids they were missing back home as they sat in a hotel lobby sipping tea and speaking to the press.

I had to play my part and so I hid the truth in an article that made the most of their swearing and full-on performances.

But I am getting off track.

What the hell is going on with ICP declaring themselves Christian? Until now, they’ve incited violence, debased women and done as much for promoting a healthy idea of sex as Hitler did for racial harmony.

But now,  it seems, “They’ve only been pretending to be brutal and sadistic to trick their fans into believing in God.”

Trick? You can be tricked into joining Scientology when they call it Dianetics but tricking the kids into following Jesus through angry and misogynist lyrics proves the only thing heavy about them is their makeup and it appears to have seeped into their small brains.

(Plus, it does so many weird things to the concept of predestination I dare not try to understand it.)

But then, much in the story suggests they don’t really know what’s going on.

“A giraffe is af—ing miracle. It has a dinosaur-like neck. It’s yellow. Yeah, technically an elephant is not a miracle. Technically.”

They have proved themselves to be insane, and clowns and we know they’re not a posse because THEY ARE WHITE.

Technically, this can’t be good for Christianity.

me tweeting

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